Marantz has had a reputation for high-quality audio reproduction for over 50 years. Lately, their receivers have been a little short on features, but maintained the legendary sound. Times are changing and Marantz has adapted nicely to the new technologies available to the receiver maker. The release of the SR6004 receiver reviewed here is proving that. This new receiver has you covered on all the new codecs, Audyssey features, video scaling and even Bluetooth connectivity. It is designed to be the hub of a modern home theater and even an entire home.
The SR6004 comes with all the features you’d expect, like four-to-two HDMI 1.3 switching, three-to-one component and composite video input switching. A front panel input allows composite video and has the only S-Video jack on the receiver. Digital inputs abound, with four optical and two coaxial, as well as a USB input, and one optical digital output that can feed a digital recorder or another home theater elsewhere in the home. There are a 7.1 channel analog input, eight pairs of stereo analog inputs and a stereo analog output for one zone, as well as 7.1 channel preamp outputs. A two-prong IEC power socket with both a switched and un-switched power outlet for your other components round out the connectivity. Seven 110-watts-per-channel into eight ohms amplifiers can be set to run speakers in a host of different ways from a conventional 7.1 system, with or without front height channel connected for when you use Dolby Pro Logic IIz. If you only run five speakers, you can use the extra channel to bi-amplify your front speakers.
Control is handled by remote connections for syncing to other Marantz components, as well as a 12-volt trigger, an RS-232 port and IR inputs. Connectors for both Sirius and XM satellite radio are here, as well as AM and FM tuners with up to 60 presets and direct access via the remote. The coolest thing on this unit is Marantz’s new M-X Port terminal that plugs in the included RX101 Bluetooth and IR receiver. This allows remote IR detection should you hide your gear and will also sync to your iPhone or other Bluetooth-enabled devices and allow playback wirelessly on your home system. The RX101 has the capability of remembering up to eight Bluetooth devices, so the entire family can easily sync their iPhones and laptops on a single receiver.
The entire complement of Audyssey functions are here, including MultiEQ, Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume, as well as Dolby Pro Logic IIz, which offers an added pair of front height channels to increase the surround experience. All analog video sources can be scaled up to 1080p or any other format and are converted to HDMI and each other, allowing only the highest-level connector to connect the receiver to your display. Nowadays, that will hopefully be HDMI. Two HDMI outputs are present and you can directly switch between the two of them with a button on the remote. I am very happy to see this addition, as switching between the two outputs on older Marantz receivers was deeply buried in the set-up menus. Now those with dual display systems can easily switch between them.
The front panel USB port is full 2.0 spec and allows direct connection to an iPod, iPhone, flash drive or hard disc drive with up to 700 folders and over 65,000 files. Clearly, this will handle even large libraries and massive storage devices. When connected via USB, iPods and iPhones transfer data digitally as LPCM and can reproduce true CD quality sound from uncompressed files. Should you not want to be tethered to your receiver, the Bluetooth adaptor will allow you to move about your house while listening. Full iPod control is available from the remote and, for larger storage devices, your display will allow you to easily navigate your music files.
Top all this off with Marantz’s new look for receivers and separates with the swooped-back side plates of the front fascia and the shallow depth cabinet, and this receiver not only looks great but can fit into places others can’t. The shallow depth also makes connections easier, thanks to the extra space. The only thing not present on this receiver is WiFi support for computer audio, but the included Bluetooth support is more useful, easier to set up and accomplishes the same goals.
I hooked the Marantz SR6004 to a 5.1 set of KEF 5005.2 speakers and fed the unit with a Scientific Atlanta 8300HD DVR, Denon DVD2500BTCI player and my Marantz TT-15SI turntable. I ran the cable box via both HDMI and component video, as well as a coaxial digital. I plugged in the RX101 Bluetooth receiver and the power cord and was up and running in less than half an hour. The Audyssey MultiEQ auto room set-up took a few more minutes. I went through the menus to set up my sources. The new GUI Marantz has made is much more modern than the previous version, which seemed very MS-DOS like and was a nice new addition. The input assignment is done on a large chart and is logical and intuitive to use. All inputs can be renamed to your liking. Parental controls, manual and automatic room set-up are all here, as well as set-up for the 7.1 channel analog input. You can even use Marantz’s nine band graphic equalizers that allow you to customize each of the seven speakers, a true treat for the tweaker and a feature that provided a lot of fun for me. Tweaking frequency response of the different speakers can greatly improve or degrade your system, so be careful when messing with the EQ settings, but have fun.
The first thing I wanted to test was the Bluetooth connection, as I find this to be incredibly useful in today’s world. I started off with my Mac Book Air streaming 192 Kbps MP3 and AAC files and was very happy with the results. Whether I streaming The Cure’s cover of “Purple Haze” from Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix (Reprice/WEA) to Cypress Hill’s self-titled album (Sony) and the track “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” the sound was good, with reasonable separation and solid bass. Connecting my iPhone was a snap and gave me in-hand control of everything on it, even from across the house. When I did step out of range, simply moving back a few feet resumed playback. The ability to stream from my or any of my friends’ iPhones or laptops made the experience far outweigh any limitations the compression took away from the music.
To compare the RX101 Bluetooth receiver to the USB, I used my iPhone. The USB input allows a true digital feed from the attached USB device to the receiver. I made two play lists of the same songs, one as AIFF files and one as MP3 and AAC files for easy comparison. I had to use my iPhone, as my iPod is an older model and only fourth-generation or newer models support the direct digital output. With my iPhone directly connected, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” from Annie Lennox’s Medusa (Arista) in AIFF offered the best sonics, and for critical listening was more open with better separation than the 192 kbps MP3 track. When I switched to the Bluetooth receiver, the differences between the two file formats was less, with both sounding closer to the MP3 track, though the AIFF still had a bit more open sound.
Turning to TV, I found the time for the SR6004 to switch between different HD resolutions acceptably. It took a second or two, but everything does these days, and the Marantz was certainly no slower than others I’ve used, and on par with anything else I have. Dolby Digital from my HD DVR was clear and open. When I watched Entourage (HBO), vocals were easily discernable and surround effects matched the screen image. Sons of Anarchy (FX) demonstrated solid bass from explosions, while keeping subtleties clear. Scaling from the component input was good and, with higher-resolution sources, seemingly identical to HDMI on my slightly dated Panasonic plasma. I tried the Audyssey Dynamic EQ and volume and went through the various levels. While they did improve the ability to perceive voices at lower volumes, they pushed the mid bass too much for my liking, so I defeated them.
I spun up Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs (Chrysalis/Capitol) on vinyl and was pleased with the rich and open way it portrayed the title track, giving a spacious soundstage with well-positioned bells. The deep and driving guitar riffs of “Too Rolling Stoned” came across with power and energy that made the song a joy to hear. I loved this album as a young man and this set-up showed me why, in more detail than I remembered. The AM/FM tuner of the Marantz SR6004 worked well, tuning in even difficult stations and had more presets available than any terrestrial radio market will offer.
I loaded up X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray and got all the life and energy I have come to expect from the new codecs. Every minute detail was crisply portrayed from the DTS HD MA track, while powerful explosions shook the room. The sound of sliding metal on metal when Wolverine’s new claws come out for the first time was perfect and sounded as though I was using my own kitchen knives. The smacking of flesh in the fight with Blob had great detail and Blob’s fall to the floor was palpable.
The remote is well laid-out and functions perfectly, and even has great backlighting, but it feels kind of cheap. I know, I’m nitpicking, but it doesn’t seem quite up to the quality of the receiver. Four HDMI inputs is a good number, but those with multiple gaming platforms, players and possibly TV sources may need more. I love the addition of the remote button to switch HDMI outputs, but can also see the downside to this, as a child accidentally hitting this button could cause technical operating problems, but I don’t see how to overcome this, as those with dual display systems need immediate access to this feature. It is just something to be careful of if you don’t use it.
Marantz has hit one out of the park with the new SR6004 AV receiver. Not only does it have/support all the new uncompressed codecs, multi-zone control and Audyssey EQ features, it even has Dolby Pro Logic IIz, which adds front height channels to enhance the surround experience. It has compatibility for both satellite radio providers, a USB audio input that can access music stored on any type of USB capable storage and allows a true digital feed from fourth-generation or later iPods or iPhones for critical listening. What I like the best is the inclusion of the RX101 Bluetooth receiver that allows me, or any of my friends, to stream music from our iPhones or other Bluetooth devices to the system wirelessly while maintaining in-hand control. The included RX101 Bluetooth receiver allows total convenience with only a slight loss of sonic quality when compared to the USB input and can remember up to eight devices, so an entire family or group could easily connect to it.
Marantz has a long history of delivering great sound, often with a lack of features, but this new receiver breaks that mold. Sure, it sounds great. In fact, it sounds better than most of the competitors’ higher-priced models, but now Marantz is really baring its teeth and adding the coolest, most useful features. The SR6004 doesn’t offer WiFi for computer audio – it goes one better and adds a Bluetooth receiver, which allows more ease of use and flexibility than WiFi. To top it off, the RX101 Bluetooth receiver also doubles as a remote IR receiver, allowing the SR6004 to be hidden from view, yet still be easily accessed via the included remote.
This is a great receiver. It’s so easy to use and so practical, while sounding incredible. It offers relevant usable features not found elsewhere with great sound, all at a mid-fi price. This is the receiver I am recommending to anyone who asks me. The Marantz SR6004 is the most useable, feature-packed receiver, offering incredible sonics at a real-world price point. This is the one to check out if you are in the market for a new receiver, but get your own: I’m keeping this one